When Breath Becomes Air
THE NEW YORK TIMES NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER
THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER
'Finishing this book and then forgetting about it is simply not an option...Unmissable' New York Times
At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decadeâe(tm)s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.
When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithiâe(tm)s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity âe" the brain âe" and finally into a patient and a new father.
What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away?
Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.
You are a young neurosurgeon. You have completed 11 years of training. You are devoted to your work and on the brink of a wonderful career. Then you are diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day you are a doctor making a living treating the dying, the next a patient dying, struggling to live.
"A great, indelible book ... as intimate and illuminating as Atul Gawande's "Being Mortal," to cite only one recent example of a doctor's book that has had exceptionally wide appeal ... I guarantee that finishing this book and then forgetting about it is simply not an option ... gripping from the start ... None of it is maudlin. Nothing is exaggerated. As he wrote to a friend: "It's just tragic enough and just imaginable enough." And just important enough to be unmissable." New York Times "Rattling. Heartbreaking. Beautiful." -- Atul Gawande, author of Being Mortal "Thanks to When Breath Becomes Air, those of us who never met Paul Kalanithi will both mourn his death and benefit from his life. This one of a handful of books I consider to be a universal donor - I would recommend it to anyone, everyone." -- Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto "Paul Kalanithi's memoir, When Breath Becomes Air... split my head open with its beauty. Truly. Madly. Deeply." -- Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild "Dr Kalanithi describes, clearly and simply, and entirely without self-pity, his journey from innocent medical student to professionally detached and all-powerful neurosurgeon to helpless patient, dying from cancer. He learns lessons about the reality of illness and the doctor-patient relationship that most doctors only learn in old age but Paul Kalanithi died at the tragically early age of 37. Every doctor should read this book - written by a member of our own tribe, it helps us understand and overcome the barriers we all erect between ourselves and our patients as soon as we are out of medical school" -- Henry Marsh, author of Do No Harm "A remarkable book about what it means to live...a tour de force...The book will be compared inevitably to Sacks' work and also to the iconic book that Joan Didion wrote about grief, The Year of Magical Thinking. And like that book, it's destined to become an elegiac classic on the subject of mortality. But it's a different feeling from Didion's gorgeous, melancholy fog of war. When Breath Becomes Air is electrically alive in its anticipation of death." -- Lisa Chase Elle "A tremendous book, crackling with life, animated by wonder and by the question of how we should live. Paul Kalanithi lived and died in the pursuit of excellence, and by this testimonial, he achieved it." -- Gavin Francis, author of Adventures in Human Being "[A]n emotional investment well work making: a moving and thoughtful memoir of family, medicine and literature...His words are bracing for their honesty. He also writes beautifully about the philosophical aspect of medicine, neurosurgery in particular." -- Nora Krug Washington Post "It's a story so remarkable, so stunning, and so affecting that I had to take dozens of breaks just to compose myself enough to get through it...Although you know how this one ends, you still can't believe it. That's because the author -- a nonsmoker whose cancer was the result of a genetic mutation -- is so likeable, so relatable, and so humble, that you become immersed in his world and forget where it's all heading. It occurs to me, as I close this book again (but not for the final time), that when I'm next on rounds in the hospital, I will have something devastating and spectacular to recommend." -- Matt McCarthy USA Today "Writing isn't brain surgery, but it's rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former... A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity." Kirkus Starred Review
Paul Kalanithi graduated from the Yale School of Medicine, and went on to become one of the most accomplished neurosurgeons in his field, winning numerous awards and holding a position at Stanford University. At the age of 36 Kalanithi was diagnosed with terminal cancer. His reflections on doctoring and illness have been published in the New York Times, The Washington Post and The Paris Review Daily. Kalanithi died on March 9, 2015, aged 37.